What Is Your Daily Commute Costing Your Children?

via HowLiveWorks by @JosephKopser

One of the easiest ways to ruin a good mood is to sit in gridlock traffic for an hour on the way to work. Long commutes can obviously bring on unhealthy emotions, but growing research suggests that commuting can be even more insidious than what meets the eye.

In fact, it may be harming your health and holding your children back in ways you don’t yet realize.

The Real Cost of a Long Commute

Every minute of your commute counts. In fact, a study by the U.K. Office for National Statistics found that each additional minute of commuting time can have a noticeably negative effect on a commuter’s well-being. The study concluded that commuters were more likely than non-commuters to feel anxious and dissatisfied with their lives.

The added stress and inactivity clearly impair the health of commuters who drive or take the train to work. So it makes sense that another U.K. study of 20,000 commuters found that people who walked to work were 40 percent less likely than drivers to develop diabetes and 17 percent less likely to suffer from high blood pressure.

A long commute could be robbing you of health and happiness. And to make matters worse, it could also be impeding your social mobility.

Commuting Can Thwart Your Family’s Advancement

In April, a Harvard team of researchers released the results of an ongoing study of upward mobility. The researchers assessed a variety of factors — including crime, test scores, and household makeups — to determine what was holding families and their children back from breaking the bonds of poverty.

The strongest factor linked to upward mobility was commute time. Researchers found that the longer the commute, the less likely people — and their children — were to climb out of poverty. Longer commutes make it more difficult for people to connect to well-paying jobs, find time to help their children with homework, and put their children in better schools.

Unfortunately, urban sprawl is a major culprit in distancing people from good jobs, schools, and necessities — creating an endless cycle of long commutes, stress, and stagnation.

As a result, some have become confined to a geographical area, making it easier for cities to deprive these areas of things such as sidewalks, repaired roads, and quality schools. This manifests as socioeconomic segregation, congestion, and pockets of poverty, forcing people to commute to access higher-paying jobs.

Take Back Your Commute

A long drive can suppress your level of happiness, your quality of life, and where you and your family stand on the socioeconomic ladder. So think carefully about where you decide to live. Settle down in a community that offers easy access to public transit, proper sidewalks, bike lanes, pedestrian lanes, and bus lanes. And, if you can, live as close as possible to well-paying jobs, good educational institutions, and grocery stores.

In addition, consider getting involved with your community and city council. These groups often make rules that govern zoning and density issues. They have influence on budgets and what is done to create bike lanes or improve sidewalks.

Most importantly, understand the full cost of your commute. An hour on the road each day is one hour less you can spend with your children, pursuing your hobbies, or getting a good night’s sleep. Your family’s future is on the line, so make your commute a top priority in any career or personal move.

Joseph Kopser is the co-founder and CEO of RideScout, an Austin-based technology created to increase transportation efficiency by getting people out of their cars and into other public, commercial, and private options. Prior to RideScout, Joseph served in the Army for 20 years and earned the Combat Action Badge, Army Ranger Tab, and Bronze Star.

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